Labeling and Intergenerational Transmission of Crime: the Interaction between Criminal Justice Intervention and a Convicted Parent

  • Sytske Besemer (Contributor)
  • David P. Farrington (Contributor)
  • Catrien C.J.H. Bijleveld (Contributor)



Labeling theory suggests that criminal
justice interventions amplify offending behavior. Theories of intergenerational
transmission suggest why children of convicted parents have a higher risk of
offending. This paper combines these two perspectives and investigates whether
labeling effects might be stronger for children of convicted parents. We first
investigated labeling effects within the individual: we examined the impact of
a conviction between ages 19-26 on self-reported offending behavior between 27-32
while controlling for self-reported behavior between 15-18. Our results show
that a conviction predicted someone’s later self-reported offending behavior,
even when previous offending behavior was taken into account. Second, we
investigated whether having a convicted parent influenced this association.
When we added this interaction to the analysis, a labeling effect was only
visible among people with convicted parents. This supports the idea of
cumulative disadvantage: Labeling seems stronger for people who are already in
a disadvantaged situation having a convicted parent.
Date made available1 Jan 2015

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